Unreal Nature

February 13, 2015

The First Thing One Feels Is Gratitude

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:34 am

… we have simply, out of aesthetic habit, been editing out the entire visible world, and he has taken it upon himself to show us what we haven’t been seeing.

This is from the essay ‘Robert Adams and Los Angeles‘ (2000) found in What Light Can Do: Essays on Art, Imagination, and the Natural World by Robert Hass (2012):

[ … ]

Robert Adams, 1970: “For a shot to be good — suggestive of more than just what it is — it has to come perilously near to being bad, just a view of stuff.”

What has made Adams so fierce and necessary an artist, especially to anyone who has grown up in the West in the postwar years, is the shock of familiarity in his work. His images can be painful to look at and if one is inclined to loathe human civilization or at least the heedlessness of modern American civilization, bitter. But the first thing one feels is gratitude and wonder. Image after image of things we have seen but not noticed, or noticed and not seen, or don’t remember having seen or noticed, while recognizing that we’ve been seeing them all our lives. It’s as if, on the road between the photographs of Western photographers like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston and the sunny pastels of the beach at Santa Monica or the lush gardens of San Marino, we have simply, out of aesthetic habit, been editing out the entire visible world, and he has taken it upon himself to show us what we haven’t been seeing.

-Julie

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